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Comment Re:Not new: .com, .net, .org? U.S. jurisdiction (Score 5, Interesting) 354

What is scary here is the cooperation of Verisign. In this case, Verisign maintains the registry for .com. But Verisign also still operates the 0 Root servers under contract to the Dept. of Commerce. So, if they wanted to (or were ordered to by the U.S. Govt) they could "technically" take out an entire TLD, including a ccTLD like .ru or .cn.

"Technically" is in quotes because the realities of the root servers would make it easy for the rest of the world to tell the U.S. to go screw at that point, and stop syncing the dozens of root servers that are distributed around the world off of the Verisign "corrupted" servers. However, it would be the end of the canonical DNS system as we know it.

AFAIK, the engineers at Verisign who handle root server issues try very very hard to stay out of any type of corporate shenanigans, but at the end of the day Verisign operates those servers, and Verisign is a U.S. Company, on U.S. soil, with executives who are very much subject to the immediate coercion of the U.S. Government.

Comment Pet Peeve: it's not a "Spy Plane" (Score 2) 428

Forgive the rant, but:

It is not a "spy" plane, it is a "surveillance" plane. Ever since the 2001 Hainan Island incident this mistake has really irked me. The Chinese used it as a rhetorical club to beat us with when GWB chickened out and let them chop up our plane and imprison our crew.

A "spy" plane would be one that is designed/intended to escape detection and/or interception while conducting surveillance in places it has no right to be (such as the U2 and SR-71 or the Global Hawk). During the cold war, the Soviet Union consistently protested our overflights of their territory with the U2 and SR71, and sought (and once succeeded) to shoot them down, as was their right. Those were "spy" planes, and Francis Gary Powers was, technically, a "spy."

The JSTARS E-8 and the Hainan EP-3E are both military versions of the Boeing 707 -- they aren't designed to hide from or evade anyone trying to see and/or catch them. They are big obvious platforms that fly in neutral territory (or over an actively declared battle zone when we have air dominance) and provide surveillance and other capability. They aren't hiding or trying to deceive anyone.

Comment Re:Giving up passwords (Score 4, Informative) 575

First, the quote was from the Declaration of Independence, a document that preceded the U.S. Constitution by more than a decade, was purely symbolic in nature -- which is to say, it has almost zero application in the law of the United States of America.

What both of you are trying to recall from your ancient civics classes is the Fifth Amendment (part of the Bill of Rights, passed 2 years after the Constitution), which reads (in relevant part):

No person shall be . . . compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. . . .

Whether or not coercing someone to unlock the chest where they put their confession is the same as forcing them to incriminate themselves is a tricky and unsettled question of law that we (the Yanks) are still working on. (Whether the coercion is beating them with a $5 wrench, or putting them in prison indefinitely for "contempt", the principle is the same.)

Your meta-point is quite true, however - the creation and protection of such individual rights in conflicts with the State was the fundamental schism that led North America to diverge from the previously (fairly homogenous) Anglo/European civilization about 200 years ago. Now build some Settler[early game]/Armor units[late game] and get out there and spread the word to the rest of the map.

Comment OP Doesn't Understand The Law (Score 4, Insightful) 202

As an attorney, reading this question invokes the same reactions that many of the /. crowd would have if I started trying to opine on the technical failings that would allow our mythical vandals to reprogram the hypothetical robot.

Not to get too technical, but just because you sue the company doesn't mean you win. The liability insurance that even the smallest companies carry would cover the legal costs of having such a suit dismissed. (For the technically inclined, look up comparative negligence and the proverbial "intervening bad actor").

The homeowner (the ones suing) would probably be found more responsible for not following basic security etc.

As others have pointed out, software companies have long been given practically a free ride in harm caused by poorly written software. First, they have been allowed to disclaim the standard warranties of fitness and function. This is akin to buying a car that the manufacturer won't promise to actually work or be safe. If Ford told you that they wouldn't guarantee that pressing the brake pedal actually engaged the brakes, would you drive that car? Yet every piece of commercial software we use specifically says that there is no promise that it will work at all, or do what the purchaser wants.

Here is a counter hypothetical (more realistic as it has actually happened). A relative dies in a plane crash. The FAA investigation conclusively shows that the accident was caused by a bug in one of the key computer systems. Should you sue: the airline? The manufacturer (boeing/airbus)? The subcontractor that wrote the software?

The answer is, you sue the airline, and the system is set up so that anything you win from them, they can then sue to recover from the party up the chain. Thus, everyone's liability is ultimately apportioned according to their degree of fault (note, yes it is a gross simplification). This is why people writing software for critical systems (ones where a failure can cause property damage or injury) need a good lawyer to write their contracts/licenses. They law has allowed programmers to avoid their responsibilties for a long time, so if a sw company doesn't take advantage of that, it is their own fault.

Consider, there is no educational or professional certification required to write and sell software that controls an infant incubator used in an NICU, but you need a government license to drive to the store. Programmers and engineers have been getting a sweet deal in liability for years, so it's awesome to hear them still complaining.

Comment Re:Of course they are going to say that. (Score 1) 398

I completely agree that this is marketing fodder by Unisys. But it is also corporatism that will prevent this from ever happening. Logistically, it would not be that difficult to shut off the internet for 95% of Americans. First, there are a finite number of physical cable trunks entering and leaving the U.S., and the FCC knows all about where each and every one of them comes ashore. The number of companies with independent inter-city backbone capacity is probably fewer than 10. (Level 3, AT&T, Verizon, ???). But, the fact remains that each of those networks -- no matter how regulated -- is the property of a corporation that has every incentive to protect its property from undue government control. These are the interests (with deep pockets) that will finance the 5th amendment litigation that would ultimately apply the Constitution.

The two things I worry about more is (1) the individual rights with no corporate interest to back them, and (2) when corporations aid and abet the government's violation of those individual rights (e.g. turning over vast amounts of consumer data for government data mining, or allowing the government to tap your customers without a warrant, etc. etc.)

As soon as the government puts a "kill switch" on the current network, someone will have a strong incentive to build a new one the government can't kill without physical violence. Information wants to be free, and the internet is beyond the power of even the U.S. government to ever contain.

Comment Re:Promissory estoppel ftw -- Not so fast (Score 2, Interesting) 465

Yes, that is all well and good, but you need to read the actual 'promise' before you leap to conclusions. It is (in my opinion) somewhat vague. For example, they promise not to assert "necessary claims", which are defined as:

those claims of Microsoft-owned or Microsoft-controlled patents that are necessary to implement the required portions (which also include the required elements of optional portions) of the Covered Specification that are described in detail and not those merely referenced in the Covered Specification.

Of course, anyone who thinks they can "design-around" a patent will claim that the patent is not actually "necessary" to the desired function. In order to enjoy this "promise" you have to confess that the only way to achieve the standard is to infringe on a valid MS patent.

Another potentially worrying point is this exception:

If you file, maintain, or voluntarily participate in a patent infringement lawsuit against a Microsoft implementation of any Covered Specification, then this personal promise does not apply with respect to any Covered Implementation made or used by you.

So..., anyone who even "participates" in a patent suit against MS (including, presumably, a patent suit filed by MS), loses protection for not only their own products, but anything they "use." For example, if FSF got into a dust-up with MS, MS could still claim infringement by FSF (or anyone else) for using Mono, even though MS has chosen not to pursue the authors of Mono or other Mono users. Referring to it as a "personal promise" also calls into question its applicability to businesses/organizations.

I am being overly paranoid, but the fact is, like so many other legal "promises", the value of this one will only be seen in the implementation. As a cynical lawyer, I don't see anything here that absolutely precludes MS from asserting infringement by Mono or any other OSS project. If Microsoft truly wanted to be benevolent they could easily make a much broader promise with less grey area. For example, they could name the patents that they claim to cover the specs in question and offer royalty free licensing, or make a non-assert pledge with some actual teeth. All they are saying here is "we probably, maybe won't sue you unless we do."


Submission + - Netscape 9 to Undo Netscape 8 Mistakes?

An anonymous reader writes: MozillaZine reports that Netscape 9 has been announced. The most interesting thing is how they seem to be re-evaluating many of the decisions they made with Netscape 8. Netscape 9 will be developed in-house (Netscape 8 was outsourced) and it will be available for Mac OS X and Linux (Netscape 8 was Windows only). Although Netscape 9 will be a standalone browser, the company is also considering resuming support for Netscape 7.2, the last suite version with an email client and Web page editor. It remains to be seen whether Netscape will reverse the disastrous decision to include the Internet Explorer rendering engine as an alternative to Gecko but given that there's no IE for OS X or Linux, here's hoping. After a series of substandard releases, could Netscape be on the verge of making of a version of their browser that enhances the awesomeness of Firefox, rather than distracts from it?

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